Home 2023 Elections Thinking About Mason District (Fairfax County)’s Environment; Andres Jimenez Is the Best...

Thinking About Mason District (Fairfax County)’s Environment; Andres Jimenez Is the Best Choice to Protect It

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by James Albright, Mason District (Fairfax County)

With the upcoming Democratic primary election just weeks away, I am excited about
environmental issues taking center stage for the future of Mason District. Nothing is more
important for my family than a candidate’s deep commitment to our environment. I can’t think of someone better positioned to address our community’s environmental needs better than Andres Jimenez, Democratic candidate for Mason Supervisor.

In a recent presentation to the County Trails Committee on which I serve, the Fairfax County Parks Director used Mason District as an example of a “green” desert. Mason District has trees and stream valley parks and local recreation areas – but these are disconnected, under-resourced, and imbalanced. Yes, there are private developments with gorgeous trees, wetlands, lakes, and beaches but there are also many (most) communities with limited access to parks, trees, and playgrounds. There is a “green gap” in our community – one that only a leader committed to putting the environment front and center can help bridge. With growth knocking on our door here in Mason, we need someone who can see a healthy environment for what it is – good for equity, social justice and, yes, good for the economy.

The environment is a social justice issue. The health and social impacts of limited access to green space are well-documented; families need places to run and play within 10 walking minutes of their homes. Good air and water quality are essential for addressing the deleterious impacts of environmental injustice. Families living near downtown Annandale, Seven Corners, or Bailey’s Crossroads are far from stream valley parks, far from significant open space. And when those spaces are near, the trail and sidewalk network limits access. We need someone with a background in planning to understand our context.

The environment is an equity issue. Who suffers from this poor environment and limited access? Our community is large and diverse, but the “green gap” hits those in multi-family and townhouse communities the hardest. With little private outdoor space to play in, they must rely on what the County can provide. When the County lets zoning and property rights dictate where parks will go, it leaves the vast majority of our community to fend for itself. We need someone who has a long track record on addressing environmental injustice.

The environment is an economic issue. A recent study found that our Mason downtowns lack tree cover – leading to heat islands, poor water quality, and low aesthetic interest. These areas look bad and we suffer as a result. Rebuilding the tree cover and emphasizing native landscaping in our most benighted areas is a must if these are to recover and thrive. It is a false economy to emphasize endlessly expanding roads – planning theory doesn’t support vast road networks, these often lead to further erosion and tree loss, and frankly, no one wants to live near these. Our community needs a comprehensive approach to rebuilding our economy with the environment at its front and center.

This is a precarious time for Mason District. I believe in its potential, but remain concerned that our community might let slip its opportunity for really taking control of its environmental future.

This isn’t a time for experimental leadership. Supervisor Gross spent decades stabilizing our communities and holding on in a time of great change in the County. We need to build on her work, focusing on addressing the long-standing and inextricably connected needs of the environment and equity, justice, and the economy. I am convinced that Andres is the one who can do that. Andres has worked on these issues for over a decade as a national environmental leader, and has been endorsed by both Lead Locally and the Climate Cabinet as an environmental champion. He is what environmental leadership in Mason District looks like.

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